The beginning of April brought a much anticipated occasion: the arrival of sakura (cherry blossoms) in Tokyo! This is a really big event here in Japan. Forecasts are released early in the year telling when the blossoms should begin to appear and when they will peak in various locations. They bloom as early as January in Okinawa and usually bloom around the end of March or beginning of April in the Tokyo area. Once they begin to bloom, huge crowds gather to see the blossoms and enjoy hanami, the practice of picnicking under the sakura blooms. They only last about a week, which is one reason they are so cherished, so my husband and I rushed out to enjoy the sakura before they disappear. We visited several well-known sakura sites and I have lots of photos to share so let the sakura parade begin!
Hanami in Showa Kinen Park
We are fortunate to have a beautiful park nearby where there are a large number of cherry trees. Since any area with sakura can become incredibly crowded, we took a weekday to enjoy the relatively uncrowded park and have our own hanami celebration!
Sakura along the Meguro River
My husband had heard the Meguro River was a must-see and I have to agree. Cherry trees line the river on both sides and branches from opposite sides even meet in the middle in places to form a beautiful canopy of blossoms! There were plenty of food stands along the way to fuel our walk along the river, too.
Sakura by the Imperial Palace
After enjoying the trees lining the river, we headed over to see the trees by the moat around the Imperial Palace. Some folks were even in boats in the moat getting a close view!
Yasukuni Shrine sakura
As the sun began to set, we ran over to Yasukuni Shrine to see if we could fit one more spot in before night fell. (You may know this as the controversial shrine that makes the news when a prime minister visits because it enshrines Japanese war dead. But the cherry trees don’t care about politics!) There were plenty of people enjoying the blossoms and the tons of food stands lining the path to the shrine.
Ueno Park at night
Ueno Park is one of the most popular spots to go to view sakura. My husband and I went last year and it was so crowded that we were basically inching along through the park with hundreds of other visitors. This was the main reason we decided to visit some of the other spots this time around. But we did stop by on our way to our next destination just to see if the party was still going. The trees were not lit well enough to see clearly but the party was still going and many people were still enjoying hanami along the sides of the path in a very festive atmosphere.
Sakura lit at night at Tokyo Midtown
When planning our sakura viewing day, I’d found some references to cherry trees lit at night at Tokyo Midtown, a sort of mixed-development complex. I wasn’t sure it would be a big hit but I thought since the sun had set, we had nothing to lose by taking a look. I am so glad we decided to check it out! Lights are focused on the cherry trees and change color depending on what stage of bloom the trees are in. A pink light is used when the trees are just blossoming and it becomes whiter as the blossoms age. They were all so beautiful! The softly lit trees with the city in the background made for a very romantic and magical atmosphere. I loved it!
Hachiko enjoying sakura
As we were heading to the train station at the end of the night, I realized we were right by the Hachiko statue and decided to go say hello. If you haven’t heard the story of Hachiko, it is a very sweet story about a dog named Hachiko who greeted his owner at the train station at the end of each day. Even after his owner died, for years Hachiko continued making the trip to the station every day at the same time his owner always met him. This loyalty was so remarkable that he became a symbol of loyalty and a statue of him is now at Shibuya Station. And what did I find when I went to visit the statue? More cherry trees!
I had a truly wonderful time viewing the sakura in Tokyo this year and I am glad to be able to share some of it with you all!